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The Uglification of Children Is a Sign of Something Sinister

The Uglification of Children Is a Sign of Something Sinister

I saw a teenaged girl at the store recently. She was hardly recognisable as a teenaged girl because of the extreme facial piercings, the Halloween-inspired make-up, the outlandish hairdo, and the dark and foreboding clothes. She looked truly frightening.

Several days ago, I saw a different teenaged girl walking home from the bus stop. She had a knit hat with multiple pom-poms on it, purple hair, bright rainbow leggings, a puffy rainbow jacket, circus-inspired makeup, a short tutu-type skirt, and generally looked like a disturbed clown flouncing down the street.

I see girls like this — even in my conservative neighborhood nestled in my conservative state — quite often. And I wonder where their parents are. Surely these girls are not homeless. Surely they got up in the morning, got ready, and walked past their parents looking like clowns or demonic trolls as they left the house. And surely most parents would prefer their children not go out into the world looking like clowns or demons.

And yet, there they go while their parents either wring their hands, pray, look the other way, or enthusiastically cheerlead as their children express their “authentic selves.” Sorry, but no one’s authentic self is a bat out of hell or Bozo the Clown.

While there’s nothing really wrong with a shocking hairdo or brash clothes all by themselves — and goodness knows most teenagers don atrocious outfits or hairdos at one time or another and no long-term harm is done — the extreme nature of the current trends suggests that parents have a diminishing influence on their children and that this is not beneficial to the children.

Most of the disturbing and unsightly trends in children’s clothing and appearance these days are not just signs of teenage exploration or rebellion, but have ties to deviant social movements, aberrant ideologies, or even dark subcultures children find on the internet and emulate in real life.

Bring back stranger danger

When I see a child afflicted with clown-ism or dark demon troll-ism, I often think to myself, This is what comes of giving children unfettered access to strangers. Or perhaps more to the point, this is what comes of giving strangers unfettered access to our children.

When extreme, hideous, and even self-mutilating behaviours are evident in a child’s appearance, it is likely that her life is oriented toward unhinged strangers she watches online, rather than toward people who love her and have real relationships with her.

There is almost no mother on earth, or even any true friend, who would tell a girl she looks great while constantly playing the part of Dracula’s sidekick or Ronald McDonald’s wife. But that’s what people online tell her and model incessantly for her, and in her childlike lack of experience and her dual quest to belong and to stand out, she believes them.

This is where parents must stand in the gap. Remember back when we used to teach kids that strangers were not to be trusted and the term “stranger danger” was a common watchword? Perhaps we need to bring that back in a huge way. Strangers (especially those relentlessly seeking likes, monetary kickbacks, and online attention) rarely have children’s best interests at heart. Most parents usually do.

But most parents have also accepted their demotion to being less important than, less consulted than, and less trusted than people on their kids’ phones. And on their phones is where the vast majority of children who go down the path of appearance extremism find that path in the first place.

It may be wise to bear in mind Jordan Peterson’s fifth rule for life: “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.” A thorough reading of what Dr Peterson says about this is in order, but in a nutshell, here it is: It is your job as a parent to deal with behaviours in your children that will make them unpalatable to other people. If you can’t stomach your child, there’s no chance other people will be able to.

So, tactfully confront issues you see as problematic as soon as possible so that they will not entrench themselves and make your child a bane to those around him. Do not let behaviours persist in your child that may eventually incur feelings of resentment or revulsion in you. Help your child be not just likable, but socially skilled and emotionally attuned. This is a parent’s job.

It is also a parent’s job, of course, to patiently love our children through their unlovable stages, which will exist even in exemplary children.

Act now

If your child’s appearance has drastically changed and if the change in appearance is accompanied by a refusal to participate in family activities or resistance to engaging in conversation, this is not something to dismiss lightly.

If a lack of interest in family engagement is coupled with phone use (and it almost certainly is), it is likely that your child has become stranger-oriented instead of parent-oriented. And the damage to your child and to your relationship with her may be significant.

In order to change this, we must find ways to intervene for the good of our children. The most helpful tool I have found in this crucial effort is this book: Hold on to Your Kids,  by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. (Here’s the audio version.) In its pages, you will find explanations of why your child needs you even if they don’t think they do and practical advice on how to humbly, carefully, and effectively rebuild your relationship with them.

It will not be easy. You will most likely need to disrupt your child’s phone use to do it. And your child will resist your best efforts. But you can do this. And you must. Your child’s immediate and ultimate well-being may be at stake.

Let’s lovingly defrock the demons and jesters among us and bring our beautiful, loveable children back to the light.

This article was originally published on Mercator under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Image credit: Unsplash

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    Susan Dahl
    June 5, 2024, 4:45 pm

    A lot of these teenagers have been molested by a peer or psychologically damaged by an adult. They have no one to tell it to. Instead, they make themselves unattractive so hopefully (they believe) they are not approached again for this abuse. Some kids turn to food & make themselves fat, as not to be attractive. All of the people I have known who have excessive piercings, ear lobe distortions, multiple tattoos, are expressing their pain. Sometimes it is their parents themselves who have caused it.


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